June 17, 2006
Our small emergency backup cat died recently — and whether for that reason or by some coincidence, shortly thereafter we started noticing odd thumps and scrabblings in the attic crawlspace at night. Animal control experts were called in, but not before an unbearably stinky odor and the appearance of gigantic striped flies announced a death in the house.
We’ve since learned far more than we ever wanted to know about the life cycle of Rattus rattus, the black or roof rat. Did you know they only live on the coasts of North America, having stowed away on ships? And that they were named by Linnaeus himself? That they live on citrus fruit and dog food (both plentifully provided by our neighbors)? And that they creep into houses like ours to die only when they’ve been poisoned by said neighbors? For some reason I can’t get a most perverse image out of my head: a picture of the Dying Gaul with a rat head on top, dragging himself into our crawlspace to breathe his last.
To be honest, it’s been an awful lot like a mini horror movie at the ranch house, with awful stenches and maggots and poisoned peanut butter and traps and nightlong squeaking and possible cannibalism. My ever-so-helpful coworkers have suggested that perhaps I could emulate Willard, and attempt to use psychic powers to turn my verminous cohabitants into instruments of vengeance. I’m working on it, but in the meantime I’d settle for just surviving the Siege of the Rats with the tattered tag-ends of my sanity clutched in my tiny fists.